NFC East: 2010 Week 12 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Bears 31, Eagles 26

November, 28, 2010
CHICAGO -- Some quick thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 31-26 loss to the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Eagles fell to 7-4 with this loss and are now tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East. The Bears had arrived at 7-3 with an easy schedule, but they were impressive in beating the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid attempted to get back in the game by kicking field goals in the fourth quarter, but it only put off the inevitable. The Bears served notice that they could be a force in the NFC.

How did this happen? The Eagles were getting a lot of pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler early, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz did a nice job of changing his approach. Cutler started taking three-step drops and delivering short passes to his running backs and receivers. The Eagles did a pitiful job of tackling. They made Earl Bennett look like a Pro Bowl player as he broke tackles and destroyed Philadelphia in the red zone. And for the first time this season, the Eagles allowed a running back to surpass 100 yards. Bears running back Matt Forte had a 61-yard gain early in the game and he continued to gash the Eagles throughout the game.

The play that changed everything: Trailing 14-13, the Eagles drove deep into Bears territory in the second quarter. But quarterback Michael Vick threw a lazy pass that was tipped by Tommie Harris and intercepted by Chris Harris. The Bears stole all the momentum on that play and never really looked back. The Bears scored at the end of the first half to take a 21-13 lead.

What's next: The Eagles have to immediately get ready for a Thursday home game against the Houston Texans. You can overcome this loss, but dropping a game to the Texans could be devastating. It felt like the Eagles were standing around waiting for Vick to do something in this game. But the Bears' defense proved that Vick is not invincible. He actually finished 29 of 44 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception. But a lot of those yards came after the game had been decided. And the interception changed everything. The Bears sacked Vick four times and caused him to run for his life. It was an excellent game plan by Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 24, Jaguars 20

November, 28, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observations from the New York Giants' 24-20 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

What it means: The Giants sleepwalked through the first half as the defense struggled badly early. The Jaguars aren’t a sexy team but they are sound and solid and the Giants struggled to bring down Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard. They did wake up at halftime and came back at the end to pull out a much-needed 24-20 win after trailing 17-9 to start the fourth. Kevin Boss was the big hero with numerous big catches and a monster 32-yard catch and run for a touchdown. The defense got one last stop to keep the Giants’ playoff hopes alive. But if they want to be a true contender, they are going to have to play better. Bottom line, the Giants got the job done and it wasn't pretty but they stopped a two-game losing streak.

Start me up: Brandon Jacobs got the start and ran well early. He gained 35 yards on the first drive. And then he didn’t get a single carry the rest of the first half. The Giants had just four offensive drives in the half as Jacksonville ate up the clock. The Giants didn’t run the ball on the second drive in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Ahmad Bradshaw rushed the ball on their one main drive of the quarter. They didn’t get the ball back until 15 seconds left in the half for their fourth and final drive of the half.

Jacobs continued to run with power in the second half and finished with 87 yards on 14 carries. Bradshaw got nine carries for 49 yards as the Giants were forced to pass down in the second half. D.J. Ware saw limited action as a third-down back on passing downs. The Giants also tried to run behind an offensive line that was without left tackle Shawn Andrews, tackle David Diehl and center Shaun O'Hara and still had success at times.

Beating themselves: The Giants came into this game stressing how they had to stop beating themselves with ridiculous turnovers and penalties. They had a fumble by Derek Hagan overturned on a Tom Coughlin challenge inside the 10 in the first quarter. However, a penalty did kill them when Boss was flagged for holding that nullified a nine-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham in the second quarter.

But in the third quarter, the Giants caught a break when they benefited from a tipped ball off the hands of a receiver and picked off a pass –- something that has plagued Eli Manning this season. Terrell Thomas’ tipped interception set up a field goal to start the second half.

Aaron Ross was called for a critical defensive holding penalty that gave the Jags an automatic first down on a third-and-10 from the Giants’ 34 on the last drive. But the Giants defense stood tall and stopped the Jaguars to survive.

Super Mario: Manningham may have had a touchdown in the first half taken away by penalty. But he beat a zone defense in the fourth quarter to score a touchdown that helped the Giants tie the game at 17-17 with 13:42 left. With Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks both out due to injuries, Manningham was the lone playmaker left. The Giants started to use Boss more in the second half and it paid off as Boss had two huge catches on the Giants’ scoring drive that tied the game. Travis Beckum also saw some time in the slot. Newly-signed wide receiver Michael Clayton played on a few snaps.

Where's the beef?: The Giants defense entered the game fourth against the run but they couldn’t stop Jacksonville from running all over them in the first half. The Jaguars rushed for 145 yards in the first half alone. They ate up 18:34 of the clock and limited the Giants to just four drives in the first half. The Giants are typically great at plugging gaps but they couldn’t today. And it wasn’t just Jones-Drew who did the damage. Rashad Jennings had 53 yards and a touchdown in the first half and they couldn’t catch Garrard one week after doing a terrific job against Michael Vick. Garrard scored a touchdown in the first half as well. In the second half, the Giants did a much better job and blitzed a bit more.

Down 20-17, the Giants needed a stop and aided by a holding call against Jacksonville, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s unit got a much-needed stop to give the Giants the ball back with under six minutes left.

And after the offense scored to go ahead, the Giants needed a game-winning stop and they got it when they pummeled Garrard at the end and forced a fumble. Antrel Rolle recovered to secure the victory.

What's next: Get your cardiovascular on! Donovan McNabb and the Redskins are in town for their first encounter with the Giants this season. It will be the Giants’ first look at McNabb in burgundy and gold with Mike Shanahan. It’s a must-win if the Giants want to keep hopes of an NFC East title alive. They still have to face the Redskins in Washington in the final game of the year and need to stay close to Philadelphia.

Rapid Reaction: Saints 30, Cowboys 27

November, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON -- One of the best Thanksgiving Day games in Cowboys history ended when kicker David Buehler was wide left on a 59-yard field goal try with 25 seconds left. The Cowboys' two-game win streak ended with a 30-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday evening. It was the first loss of the Jason Garrett era.

What it means: The Cowboys are playing hard for the interim coach. With this team playing well, it gives owner Jerry Jones more confidence to give Garrett the job full time in 2011.

Roy E. Williams' fumble sets up wining score: The Cowboys had taken a 27-23 lead in the fourth quarter and were on the verge of trying to close out the game. On a third and six from the 42, Jon Kitna found Williams with a long pass play and Williams fumbled as he was tackled. Malcolm Jenkins forced the fumble at the Saints' 11 with 3:03 left. The Saints used the turnover to score. Drew Brees connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore to push the score to 30-27.

Dez Bryant has issues: The rookie receiver finished with zero catches. But it was his inability to know what to do several times down the stretch that gives the Cowboys pause. At least twice, Kinta yelled at Bryant after there appeared to be miscommunication on pass plays. The Cowboys have to fix this quick.

Cowboys defense plays well in second half: After giving up 20 first-half points, the Dallas defense shut the Saints down in the second half, with the exception of the frantic final drive of the game for the visitors. Gerald Sensabaugh had a interception, Jay Ratliff a key third-down sack, Terence Newman had some pass breakups. The Cowboys don't blitz much, and play more zone than before, but it's been effective the past three weeks.

What's next: The Cowboys will take the weekend off. They visit the Colts next Sunday.



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